Bulls 105 (22-13), Hawks 120 (23-15)
To say that Al Horford has flown under the radar would be an understatement. Averaging 21.4 points over his last five games — including a season-high 33 in Saturday’s victory — Horford’s stellar play helped Atlanta gain sole possession of first place in the Southeast division. Coach Mike Budenholzer used a deep rotation, giving minutes to everyone on the bench except Lamar Patterson (sorry, Lamar). Despite the loss, Chicago has reason for optimism; Joakim Noah inches closer and closer to returning, and Jimmy Butler (27 points) continues getting buckets.
Hornets 83 (17-19), Clippers 97 (24-13)
Astonishingly, the Clippers have now won eight in a row- seven of which without the services of five-time All-Star Blake Griffin. Chris Paul, who stuffed his stat sheet in the afternoon victory, said the team has stepped up “by committee” in Griffin’s absence. J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford lent credibility to that claim, posting 17 and 19 points, respectively. Jeremy Lin recorded 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but the Hornets face a significant disadvantage without Nicolas Batum or Al Jefferson in the lineup.
Wizards 105 (16-19), Magic 99 (20-18)
The Magic came up short against Washington for the 12th-straight time Saturday; this time, getting outclassed by John Wall (24 points) and a strong supporting cast; Gary Neal, Otto Porter Jr., and Jared Dudley scored 16 points apiece. Having now dropped four of their last five, the Magic will take a much needed four-day respite before taking on the Raptors on Thursday.
Nets 89 (10-27), Pistons 103 (21-16)
Double-doubles from Andre Drummond and Ersan Ilyasova helped the Pistons put Saturday’s game in cruise control. Stanley Johnson scored eight points with four boards in his first NBA start, while Darrun Hilliard — who entered Saturday’s contest with just 15 minutes of court time since Dec. 12 — scored eight points of his own, earning props from coach Stan Van Gundy.
“It was good to see him play like that,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Darrun’s going to be a good player, he just hasn’t gotten a lot of a chance so far.”
Raptors 108 (24-15), 76ers 95 (4-35)
The first half of this match-up was the DeMar DeRozan show — the 26-year-old threw down spectacular dunks en route to a 19/7/5 line. The Lakers may have grabbed recent headlines for noting their interest in DeRozan this coming offseason, but realistically, if DeRozan opts out of his deal there will be no shortage of teams vying for his services.
Meanwhile, Ish Smith posted a career-high 28 points in a losing effort. Smith deserves to be lauded for the job he’s done since being acquired from New Orleans; providing veteran presence and leadership on a losing team isn’t a glamorous job, but Smith has done so while posting career-best numbers.
Heat 83 (22-15), Jazz 98 (16-20)
Gordon Hayward lit up Miami for a season-high 34 points, while Trey Burke, Chris Johnson, and Raul Neto all scored in double-digits. Aside from a quality outing from Chris Bosh (24 points, seven rebounds), this was a game to forget for the Heat. Dwyane Wade came back down to earth with a 3-for-17 performance from the field. As evidenced by a mid-game trip to the locker room (for an apparent shoulder injury), D-Wade appeared to be playing banged up.
Warriors 128 (35-2), Kings 116 (15-22)
Not one to pass up an opportunity to show off in front of his little brother, Stephen Curry went off for 38 points, 11 dimes, six rebounds, one steal and a block in Saturday’s victory. Draymond Green may have come up short of a triple-double, but he managed 25 points (including a healthy 5-of-6 rate from downtown) with nine boards. Despite recent praise from head coach George Karl, Seth Curry was held scoreless over eight minutes. Boogie Cousins continues to be the team’s best source of offense, as he dropped 33 points with 10 boards on Golden State.